Next on our tech hit parade is the Nokia e71. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my main phone is an AT&T Tilt w/Windows Mobile. I like the Tilt about 75 on a 100 scale. It’s terrific for e-mail, calendar-ing, and pretty good for web stuff (as long as you use Skyfire rather than the crippled, pitiful IE Mobile). It’s got a nice touchscreen and a half-decent slide-out kbd. (NOTE – I can’t use an iPhone because (A) I’m hopeless with glass virtual keyboards (B) The phone part of the iPhone is scheisse, (C) the battery life sucks + the battery is not swappable, and (D) I’m not fabulous enough to use any Apple products).
Anyhow, one of the weaknesses of Windows Mobile is that WM phones are extremely cumbersome to use as phones. Try calling into a conference call (PIN required) or into your bank’s telephony system with one hand, while walking, on a WM smartphone. Impossible, even if you’ve got hands like Chris Paul (of the New Orleans Hornets, arguably the best Point Guard in the NBA).
For Europe, where it seems I always need to talk to people on my phone while skiing down an injected race slope or while walking down the street (in both cases, while wearing gloves), I wanted to get a non-clamshell smartphone. I usually use a very cheap, very simple Nokia GSM shit-phone ($40 brand new) in Europe with my Austrian SIM, but I’ve become a lover of Bluetooth (pronounced “Brewtoot” in Japanese) earpieces, and the shit-phone doesn’t have Brewtoot. With pre-paid SIM DATA plans getting more accessible, I figured what the hell, go for a smartphone.
Crackberry was out of the question, as the RIM OS blows chunks, and their browser is unusable.
After looking around for a while, it came down to either the Nokia e71 or the Nokia e63. The e63 is basically the cheaper, plastic version of the e71. I found an open-box new e71 on eBay for $200, so I went for it.
To my abject surprise, I love it. It is the most elegant phone hardware I’ve actually held in my hand. Light, slim, great kbd, great tactile feel from the metal case, nice click on the keys. I can type like a Tasmanian Devil on it. The Symbian OS is terrific. Browser is great. Tethering, e-mail is easy. And, unlike #$%^&*()@ Windows Mobile, you can do a lot of routine tasks with two or three keystrokes rather than the two or three DOZEN keystrokes required under WM.
Another thing I found really cool is that you can use the e71 to listen to FM radio (as well as internet radio). I know, it’s dumb and I’m old…but I like FM radio.
It took me about 2 minutes to get it tethering to an XP laptop.
The e71’s GPS simply ROCKS. My Tilt usually takes about 2 full minutes to find itself on the planet. The e71 found itself in about 15 seconds, and I wasn’t even close to a window.
I find it incredibly annoying that my Tilt takes 3 minutes to completely boot. The Nokia cold boots in 30 seconds.
In a similar vein, the Tilt takes 3+ hours to fully charge, whereas the Nokia tops up in 15-20 minutes.
The Nokia camera is also way better than the Tilt’s camera, although I rarely use a phone’s camera. The Nokia camera has a flash, which the Tilt’s camera does not. The rez seems much higher on the Nokia, although I will have to experiment further. Who knows, maybe using a camera phone will grow on me.
As with any phone (or unfortunately any girlfriend, as I’ve found), that initial rush of lust and fascination is soon tempered by annoying little shortcomings discovered in the course of a relationship (WTF – she leaves half-empty cat food cans in the fridge, stinking up all the other food to high heaven? Is sleeping with a Tatiana Grigorieva lookalike REALLY worth drinking tuna-flavored milk?).
By far the biggest annoyance I’ve found is the Nokia PC Suite only syncs with Outlook and with Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes? What pathetic luddite is still using Lotus Notes? Maybe it’s a Euro thing. And Outlook is, well, Outlook. Enough said. I looked on the Nokia Support Forum, and found literally thousands of Nokia users bitterly railing against Nokia for lack of Thunderbird / Sunbird sync support. I agree, but there’s more than one way to skin that particular cat. Several 3rd-party sync products, such as Sybase’s XTNDConnect PC and Mobile Master, will solve that problem for $50.
Another thing I find weird is that the e71 cannot be charged via USB. Another “WTF” moment. I actually prefer charging through A/C power for various reasons (don’t need to keep your laptop on all night for USB power, for example), but why not give users the option? Nokia does make a medusa-head USB cable with both a power plug and a micro-USB plug (part #CA-126), so that strangeness can be worked around.
I’m sure I’ll find a few more annoying things about the e71, but in general I like the e71 so much that I may just retire the Tilt and use the Nokia as my main weapon in the US as well. If I do, I will bite the bullet and buy Mobile Master Pro, since I manage all my contacts and calendar with TBird / Sunbird.